Stephen H. Wilson, a counselor at the Tideland Mental Health Center in Washington, N.C., was imprisoned in June 1973 on phony drug trafficking charges while on vacation in Mexico. His correspondence during this period (1973-1975), to friends in North Carolina and family in New Jersey, reveal the lack of Mexican justice and the condition of Mexican prisons, and concern the activities of the U.S. Narcotics Agency in Mexico. Clippings (1973-1975, 1977) reveal the plight of Americans charged with drug trafficking and focus on prison conditions.
Wilson's correspondence concerns his imprisonment, first at San Luis and later at Nogales, both in the border province of Sonora, Mexico. In one letter (July 1973), Wilson tells of his arrest, imprisonment, and prison conditions at San Luis Prison, while other letters describe the racial tensions there, the predominance of drugs within the prison, and the abusive treatment received by prisoners during interrogation (undated).
Other letters tell of the conditions under which Wilson was transferred to the Nogales Prison, a major prison riot by Mexicans against American prisoners, the forced payment for protection, and a riot that ensued after the Americans refused to pay additional money.
Throughout his correspondence, Wilson describes the unjustness of Mexican law when applied to foreigners. These letters describe the schemes of dishonest lawyers who use prisoners to extort money from their families, and how those without direct political influence or money are in a hopeless position. Wilson also charges that sentences for Mexicans were much more lenient than for Americans due to the direct involvement of the U.S. Narcotics Agency.
Wilson also comments on the unwillingness of the U.S. consulate to intervene on the behalf of U.S. citizens in Mexican jails.
Finally, after a long, costly, and unsuccessful legal battle in Mexican courts, Wilson escaped from Nogales prison. This story is retold in a letter to
Playboy magazine (March 1975).